During their final votes on the 2013 town budget Thursday night, the Salem Budget Committee made just two changes to the budget submitted by the Board of Selectmen.
The committee decided to restore funding to outside Human Services organizations to the operating budget from a warrant article and within that decision restored funding to Rockingham Community Action.
The budget from selectmen put $58,153 originally in the budget for those outside services into a warrant article. Selectmen also cut $15,000 originally budgeted for RCA.
Committee vice chairman Paul Huard made the motion to put the entire funding of $73,153 back into the operating budget.
This was after two representatives of RCA, Patte Ardizzoni and Keith Bates, spoke to the committee during the public hearing portion of the meeting.
Bates explained the $15,000 could be used to offset the cost of the organization maintaining an office in Salem after the town decided to close its current location, the Foss School on Lawrence Road, after Jan. 1.
"I think for what we get, we pay a small price for people who need these services," said Huard, who could not understand why selectmen decided to remove it from the budget and put most of it into a warrant article in the first place.
Selectmen Representative Stephen Campbell defended the decision, saying the town's transition to Senate Bill 2 allowed more opportunities for residents to make choices at the ballot.
For RCA, Campbell said their services, including heating oil assistance, weatherization and other programs, will still be available to Salem residents even if the $15,000 is not provided and if RCA does not have a presence in Salem.
"The $15,000, in essence, is doing very little for the taxpayers," Campbell said. "I believe in giving people choices and trusting them."
Huard's motion passed by a 5-4 vote with Chairman Russell Frydryck, Secretary Barry Pietrantonio and members Bob Bryant and Diana Seifert agreeing. Campbell, School Board representative Pamela Berry and members Dane Hoover and Patrick McDougall voted against the motion.
The warrant article with the $58,153 for outside Human Services remains intact and was passed with recommendation by the committee Thursday night, so for now that amount appears twice within items to be presented to voters.
Consensus appeared to be that if the amount stays in the operating budget the warrant article will eventually be zeroed out.
Without the doubling of the $58,153, the town portion of the property tax rate will remain at $7.01 per $1,000 of valued property, down a nickel from the present year.
Frydryck attempted to remove $75,000 from the town's capital budget related to the plans for a server room. Frydryck did not believe selectmen had presented enough of a concrete plan to justify the expense.
Campbell explained the money would be used to help pay for a new generator for Town Hall, a new HVAC system and work to enclose the space for the sever room, which is where they currently reside within Town Hall.
The town has applied for a matching grant to get a new generator. It's presently unknown how much assistance the town will get for the generator, or how much the generator will cost.
"We know we can make progress," Campbell said.
Frydryck's motion failed 5-4. Campbell, Barry, Pietrantonio, Huard and Seifert voted in the majority while Frydryck, McDougall, Hoover and Bryant were in the minority.
The committee had virtually no discussion Thursday night about any other item during final votes.
Frydryck praised the Board of Selectmen and town staff for the budget they brought forward.
"I've been on the board four years and this is the most thoughtful budget that I have seen," Frydryck said.
The committee will next tackle the School Department budget after Thanksgiving.